Ever since 2015, Saint Nicholas Day has always been Father’s Day to me.
There are too many things that I already don’t remember from my relatively brief time being a father. Sleep deprivation, selective memory and the swift passage of time have left me with short snippets and scenes, or the backstories to photographs that show up in my social media “memory” feeds. I’m only1 two kids deep with a third on the way, and I’m already guilty of confusing some of their youngest moments in my recollections.
But December 6, 2015 is a day that will live permanently in my mind.
We slept in2 on that Sunday morning, with sunshine streaming through the shades and nothing to wake up for but a late morning Mass. Speaking of things being late, Theresa felt it might be a good idea to try a pregnancy test and so we decided to do so before proceeding with our Sunday.
She returned from the bathroom with the life-changing stick concealed by tissue so we could gaze upon this Magic 8 Ball together. We weren’t trying to have a baby, but we also weren’t not trying. I had finished six months of chemotherapy just a few months earlier, and my oncologist had already told me that we most likely would never be able to get pregnant.
So you can imagine the shock, delight and awe that accompanied the discovery of that thin blue line. I’ve gone through this three times now, and it still blows my mind that peeing on a stick and seeing a slash of dye can definitively tell you that you have brought another human being into existence. It’s my job to write words, but I can’t find the right ones to adequately express my emotions at that moment every single time, and especially the first time. It’s just incomprehensible.
How can such momentous participation in a divine process be announced in such a mundane way? It’s the opposite of the angel appearing to Mary–that was an incredible announcement made by an incredible being. This is an incredible announcement being made by my wife relieving herself on a stick. And no, my child was not Jesus, but you’d still think there would be some music playing or something.
So there we were on a Sunday morning with the biggest secret of our lives.
After Mass and brunch, we were off to meet my parents and brothers for a Christmas concert at–of all places–the seminary where I would be employed just three years later.
Here’s a photo of us knowing something no one else knows at a place that we didn’t know would someday be signing my checks to support our as-yet-secretly growing family.:
Fast forward to today and there’s no way that seemingly-carefree-but-secret-harboring young couple could envision what the next four years would hold. Parenthood has changed us as individuals and as a couple–in mostly good ways, I think.
I certainly didn’t imagine on December 6, 2015 what life would be like on December 6, 2019.
That my wife would spend most of those four years being pregnant.
That I would come home from work to a house that had been ransacked daily by a three-year-old and a one-year-old.
That those kids would scream for me when they hear the garage door open and run to give me hugs when I enter the door.
That I would spend my free time playing “house” and “wedding” and know so much about Daniel Tiger and “Tangled.”
That I would experience the greatest of joys and the greatest of frustrations of child-rearing–sometimes in a single evening.
That a small blue line of dye on a pee-soaked stick would give a renewed sense of purpose to my life as I daily accept the challenge of my vocation to fatherhood.
There is no doubt that it is a significant challenge. In my darker moments, I wonder how so many people I know were able to make it through this alive while also raising halfway decent people. It’s sometimes overwhelming to think how early we are in this process with our young children, and that come February–fittingly the month of Groundhog Day–we will be starting from scratch again.
In my better moments, I am in awe of the privilege I have to be on the front lines of forming these little awesome people into big (hopefully still) awesome people.
So forgive me for celebrating Saint Nicholas Day a little bit differently from everyone else. Although maybe it’s not really that different. For all I know, I could wake up tomorrow to find that my one-year-old son put something in my shoe.